Friday, April 22, 2016

Is It Okay to Throw Out Yearbooks & Photos?


It is more than okay to get rid of anything that doesn't bring you any value. I don't believe in keeping items out of obligation or guilt or just in case.

Is it okay to throw out old yearbooks and photo albums when decluttering?

If something no longer is useful to you and keeping it around only adds clutter into your life, whether mental, or visual or hidden-away-in-a-storage-closet-for-no-reason, you should get rid of it. But I'm not you, so you should do whatever feels right for you. There is no right or wrong.

But for me, getting rid of both yearbooks and photos is pretty much a no brainer. I've actually wanted to do it for over a year now, but have been making very slow progress for reasons.

Starting with yearbooks, this was a very easy decision for me. 

I actually got rid of my college yearbooks a few years back, by donating them to the Goodwill. My picture was not in a single one of the yearbooks, so I honestly don't know why I even had them. Actually, I know why. It's because they handed them out for free. I now know that just because something is free, does not mean you need to take it. 

My grade 1 - 12 yearbooks were a slightly different story, because they did have some sentimental value. But not enough for me to want to keep each book.  They definitely served their value over the past 26 or so years, from the time I received that first yearbook and got my first signature in it. I've flipped through each book countless times, rereading messages from friends, circling their pictures and highlighting their names, drawing hearts next to crushes and crossing out the faces of people I didn't like.

But as I went through each book today, and reread those messages, I could barely put faces to names. As for the boys with hearts drawn next to them, I couldn't remember why I had ever liked them. Or why I didn't like the people with big X's drawn on their faces.

The point is, now that I'm in my 30's these were no longer memories that I was holding on to or felt the need to refer back to from time to time. The yearbooks were no longer needed.

But I didn't want to get rid of them completely. My plan was to go thru each yearbook, and remove any pages I wanted to keep. So I did. Starting with first grade, I went thru every page, scanned through all the messages and started removing pages and placing them in my keep pile. I only kept pages that had my picture and/or name on it, meaningful messages from friends (very few of those), my senior dedication page from my parents, etc. I also, from grade 10 - 12, kept the pages that had my best friend's picture on them as well. Simply because, 17 years later, she's still my best friend. And I expect her to be my best friend for another 17+ years. So, it'll be fun for us to look back at how young we were when we're 50.

After removing just the pages I wanted to keep, below is what's left. Maybe 20 or so pages, which is so much more manageable than 12 very heavy books that had no permanent place in my home. I will likely scan these and keep them digitally once I can borrow a scanner. Just looking at this picture makes me feel so much lighter.

Is it okay to throw out old yearbooks and photo albums when decluttering?

As for the actual yearbooks, I will be recycling mine.

Other options for disposing of old yearbooks could include donating to Goodwill or a library, or even contacting your old school and seeing if they need a copy. If you're really ambitious you might consider scanning the entire yearbook and sharing with your old classmates on Facebook, before disposing of it.

Photos are slightly harder, but still very easy. 

I used to have several large bulky photo albums filled with photos from birth to around my second year old college, when printing pictures was still a thing. But I rarely looked at them, unless I wanted to find a throwback picture to share on Instagram. With digital cameras, online photo sharing and the iPhone camera roll, actual photos in an actual photo album is a thing of the past. For me. 

So, a few months back, I pulled every photo out of their albums, put the empty albums in my donate pile and went through each photo. If the photo didn't fit a few simple criteria, the picture was put in the trash pile.

For me to keep the picture it had to be one of the following:
  1. A picture of me
  2. A picture of family or close friends
  3. Not a duplicate picture

I found as I was going thru all of my photos, I again didn't recognize a lot of the people in the pictures. They were the first to go. Also, several of pictures had similar poses, only slightly different, so I kept only the best ones, because back before digital cameras and being able to preview pictures you had to be on the safe side and take several shots to make sure you had at least good one. 

What remains is a collection of photos detailing my years growing up, my story in pictures. Nothing but photos of family, close friends, great memories. Currently, they're in a box, but the plan is to scan them all so that I'll be able to store them digitally.

I also plan on taking the best photos and creating one, just one, photobook, which will include maybe my first 21 years of life, with only my favorite pictures using a service like SnapFish or something similar.

And if I ever have kids, I will definitely do go the photobook route for keeping their memories together as well (which bonus, would make it really easy to gift to grandparents).

I'm not trying to get rid of any memories, I'm only eliminating photographic clutter that is making it difficult for me to access the memories that truly matter. Because while memories exist in your mind, sometimes you do need to see a photo or object to bring them to the forefront.

PS. I'd love to hear from you in the comments! Do you still own your yearbooks? Do you struggle with getting rid of 'sentimental' items? Also, follow me on BlogLovin to stay updated on future content. <3